PM urged to consider lifting 'work from home' guidance next month

29 March 2021, 09:55 | Updated: 29 March 2021, 16:17

Millions of people across the country have been working from home throughout the pandemic
Millions of people across the country have been working from home throughout the pandemic. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Conservative MPs have renewed efforts to pressure Boris Johnson into changing the 'work from home' guidance from next month to speed up economic recovery after lockdown.

The lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group (CRG) is pressing the prime minister to "get us back to the office as soon as is safe and feasible".

On Monday, Steve Baker MP, its deputy chairman, told The Telegraph that those who wish to return to the office should be allowed to do so, given that more than half the adult population have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

It comes as lockdown restrictions in England were eased on Monday, with the government's 'stay at home' order among the measures lifted.

"If we don't end working from home then the businesses dependent on offices full of people will be in existential difficulty," he said.

"That's why Boris Johnson should follow the data and get us back to the office as soon as is safe and feasible."

Read more: Rishi Sunak urges workers to get back into office after lockdown

Read more: Lockdown laws extended for another six months despite major Tory revolt

Mr Baker added that with the UK's vulnerable population inoculated and "the link between hospitalisations and deaths now broken", the PM "should be exploring 12 April for a return to offices".

The Telegraph also reported a separate Tory backbencher as saying that England's roadmap out of lockdown should be "accelerated" if the data allows.

However, the unnamed MP added that they do not believe people should be forced to return to the office and that "a much more hybrid arrangement" will likely come into effect.

On Friday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak warned staff may quit their jobs if they are not provided with an office and urged firms to reopen their workspaces after lockdown.

He said staff may "vote with their feet" and quit roles if they are not provided with an office.

Read more: Govt launches new ad urging people not to meet inside as lockdown eases

Analysis: Why rebel Tories say the data for lifting lockdown is on their side

CRG deputy chairman Steve Baker is urging ministers to reconsider their work from home guidance
CRG deputy chairman Steve Baker is urging ministers to reconsider their work from home guidance. Picture: PA

Last summer, the government encouraged people to get back into the workplace before a rise of coronavirus infections forced the country back into another two lockdowns.

Companies across the UK are now looking at how to tackle the issue of remote versus office working once lockdown ends, with many backing a hybrid model as employees seek to remain working from their homes part-time.

But Mr Sunak touted the benefits of the physical workplace, telling The Daily Telegraph and The Sun the opportunities afforded in an office cannot be beaten.

"You can't beat the spontaneity, the team building, the culture that you create in a firm or an organisation from people actually spending physical time together," he said.

Young people reaped the benefits of proximity to experienced mentors when working in an office, he added.

"Imagine you've just left college or university you start this job in a big company and you're sitting at home on your own," Mr Sunak told The Sun.

"How do you get to know your peers, how do you learn the culture of an organisation, how do you get those mentors, which are important for your career development?"

It comes after prominent figures - such as Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey - declared in recent weeks that they believe the five-day-a-week office commute is over.

On Thursday, Nationwide Building Society unveiled plans to allow 13,000 employees to choose where they work.

The lending giant said it would put office staff in control of deciding where they were based according to their job once the latest Covid-19 restrictions ended, after more than half - 57 per cent - said they wanted to work from home full-time.

More than a third - 36 per cent - said they preferred a mix of home and office-based work.